Thursday, July 24, 2008

Think Different: Hospitality and others

Mary tagged me back in April for this meme. I've actually been pondering it on and off since then and asking the Lord to really bring to my attention an area in which my thinking has been flawed. It has been incredible to see how God has opened my eyes over these past few months and provided me with some concrete examples to live by.

Hospitality is the call of every Christian, but seems to fall primarily to the women of the household to insure that the home is opened up to others. There are all kinds of examples of what hospitality might look like. I know many, many talented women who just exude hospitality. They have special abilities in cooking, baking, presentation, decorating, organizing.... I admire them and they inspire me in so many ways.

When we were first married we lived on campus in an apartment. All of our friends were dorm dwellers and we saw immediately a great opportunity before us to minister and connect with others. Every Sunday evening we would open our doors after Vespers to anyone that wanted to come in. We provided some snacks. Since we had virtually no money the snacks were usually pretzels and iced tea or on a good week Pillsbury bread sticks with cheese sauce. So with what we had, we would serve our guests and enter into each other's lives and thoughts through conversation.

The first year we were in Indianapolis another young couple came to visit our church. I jotted Ryan and Lisa's phone number down and later in the week called them over to share our spaghetti and sauce from a jar dinner. They gladly accepted and thus began one of the best friendships of our adult lives.

In later years, we opened our home each week with a shared meal and Bible Study. Many important topics were covered and relationships strengthened around our small table even before the study would begin. From the world's standards it wasn't much. Usually it was a self service food from a crockpot and homemade dessert, but it was a joy to serve.

Somewhere along the line my thinking has gone astray in the area of hospitality. Now that I'm no longer in the newly married or young family category, it seems that hospitality has stepped up a notch. I fear that I have imposed the expectations of HGTV and the Food Network onto what God intended to be a ministry that is other focused rather than self focused. I have turned my eyes watch others exercise their gifts rather than trusting God to use me as He desires. I've been thinking more about myself than others.

After being surprised and humbled by the hospitality extended to us this summer in Florida I've been convicted about my many excuses- I'm tired, my house is not up to speed, I don't have time to make something nice, I could never do it like so-and-so, my glasses don't match....

God says:

Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God's people who are in need. Practice hospitality. -Romans 12:12-13

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms. -1Peter 4:8-9

Attending the funeral of our friend, Barbara, there was story upon story about a life dedicated to serving others. Some were being heard for the first time. The hospitality she gave came in many forms and extended beyond the confines of her home. I don't doubt that God grew her character through the years she served countless people from her own table. She lived her life intentionally giving support and comfort to others. Here are a two examples:

Barbara and her husband brought my parents their first cord of firewood tied up with a red ribbon. They had briefly met once while visiting church and knew that my parents were building a new home and probably didn't have any cut. She thought that my parents might need some firewood for warmth. That interaction led to more encounters and eventually my parents joined that church where they raised us in the faith.

When my best friend's dad died when she was eighteen, Barbara attended the estate sale. She inquired about my friend's favorite childhood toy and purchased it. She saved that toy for about thirteen years and presented it to her at the birth of her first child. Barbara's vision for loving my young, hurting friend extended ahead through the years.

There were many, many more examples shared of her practical ministry. Many more I'm sure are only known by the Lord. Truly she was the woman described in 1 Timothy 5:10 "... is well known for her good deeds, such as bringing up children, showing hospitality, washing the feet of the saints, helping those in trouble and devoting herself to all kinds of good deeds."

In her Bible was found this poem. It sums up well what I have been thinking and praying about the past few months.


Lord help me live from day to day
In such a self-forgetful way
That even when I kneel to pray
My prayers will be for Others.

Help me in all the work I do
To ever be sincere and true
And I know that all I do for You
Must needs be done for Others.

And when my work on earth is done
And my new work in heaven begun
May I forget the crown I've won while thinking still of Others.

Others, Lord, yes, others
Let this my motto be;
Help me to live for Others
That I may live for Thee.

This is by no means a quick meme, but I'd love for you to share with us what you have been challenged to think about differently. The topic is wide open. Saralyn, Sniz, Michelle, anyone else care to share?


mom24 said...

Goodness, this reminds me of how selfish I often am. It take such an effort to step out of our natural sinfulness and do as Jesus wants us to do - serve others.
I love the poem too. Thanks for the lovely post!

Tara said...

Man. Come on over anytime. I'll make your brood spaghetti with sauce from a can and breadsticks with cheese. I would love to "hospitalitize" your family! (that is be hospitible, not put them into the hospital!) :)

jennie said...

I am right there with you on this one. It is so much easier to have others over when you don't have children. I too am relearning how to be hospitable in these circumstances.
Great post!

elaine@bloginmyeye said...

I posted on introspection:

Spankie said...

the biblical hospitality is more or less defined by the culture at the time. a loose definition... a cultural norm to take care of the strangers and foreigners living among you...

i just taught a bible class on
1 John 3:17 (MSG)
17 If you see some brother or sister in need and have the means to do something about it but turn a cold shoulder and do nothing, what happens to God's love? It disappears. And you made it disappear.

as i left the class i had a voice mail on the cell stating there was a 16 year old sitting on my front steps that had no home to goto and could i take him in.

now mind you i already have three others in my house (a 22 year old with nowhere to live, and a 48 year old new Christian who fell on hard times, and another kid who needs extra TLC) on top of my own kids and wife. this brings us to eight people. I am recovering from surgery and half crippled. I have not worked in several months. But i have room. I have some extra bedding, i can eat less and sell my motorcycle..

Ive learned to share what I have, new or old, home cooked or jar. i gave up on decorating and having a model home. the gifts of hospitality far surpass anything I could ever own. ya know what, nobody cares if the sofa's old and i never finished painting. They dont care if my plates dont match and we use a paper cup or two.

open your homes and invite that one thats alone in the pew, or the library, or sits alone at work...its worth it.


eally said...

Wow, the poem brought tears to my eyes...just beautiful!